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East Room

12:21 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, thank you very much.  Please.  Thank you.  (Applause.)  And I want to thank you all for being here as we mark the 20th anniversary of Trafficking Victims Protection Act.  Very important.

Twenty years ago, this nation took a historic step to protect the victims of this form of modern-day slavery here in the United States and all around the world.  My administration is 100 percent committed to eradicating human trafficking from the Earth.

I am pleased to be joined this afternoon by Vice President Mike Pence and the members of my Cabinet: Attorney General William Barr; Secretary Gene Scalia — hello, Gene; Secretary Alex Azar, who is very busy — and I’m going to see you in a little while, right?  Unfortunately, for this — in this case. Acting Secretary Chad Wolf, great job with those numbers.  Great job, Chad.  Deputy Secretary Stephen Biegun.  Hi, Stephen.

And thanks also to Representatives Chris Smith, Ann Wagner, Michael McCaul, and Chip Roy for being with us.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

And we have a lot of great senators that wanted to be here so desperately, but I said, “Just stay where you are and do you job, please.”  (Laughter.)

We also have with us Ambassadors Callista Gingrich — hi, Callista.  (Applause.)  Sam Brownback and John Richmond.  Thank you all very much.  Thank you.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

And Director of the FBI, Christopher Wray.  Christopher.  Thank you, Chris.  (Applause.)  And we have Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr — very active.  Thank you very much, Chris.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)  And Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody.  Thank you.  Thank you, Ashley.  Thank you, Ashley.  (Applause.)

Florida Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Núñez.  (Applause.)  And First Lady of Texas, Cecilia Abbott.  (Applause.)  I just saw your husband, by the way.  I just saw your great husband.  Great gentleman.

And North Carolina Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest.  Thank you very much.  Thank you, Dan.  Great.  (Applause.)

And I am especially grateful to Ivanka for her unwavering efforts.  She has taken this under her wing.  (Applause.)  Thank you very much.  Thank you, honey.

Ivanka has been a champion for administrative and legislative actions to combat human trafficking.  And a true heart — she has — this issue has been so important to her.  This, and making sure people are ready to work.  And she has now created over 15 million jobs for the people of our country — one of the reasons our unemployment numbers are the best ever.  Fifteen million.  (Applause.)

And I would say that this issue may be closest to her heart because of the level of evil that you would never believe is even possible in a modern age.  The level of evil is incredible.

So I just want to thank Ivanka for — for both of the things that you are really focused on.  Thank you very much, honey.  I appreciate it.  (Applause.)  Fifteen million jobs.  It was going to be 500,000.  “Daddy, I think we can do 500,000.”  Within about a week, she broke that, and now she is up 15 million jobs.  It’s a fantastic thing.  (Applause.)  I’m not — I’m not surprised, Mike.  We’re not surprised.

We are also honored to have with us several extraordinary survivors of human trafficking.  And I want to thank you all for being here.  And you’ll come up when we sign, and it’s going to be my great honor to say hello and shake your hand.  And your courage really inspires us all.  I want to just let you know that.

As the men and women in this room know, human trafficking is a problem everywhere — a worldwide problem.  Human trafficking is worse than ever before, and that’s because of the Internet.  I’ve heard from Bill Barr, and I’ve heard from others, that the Internet has caused lots of good things to happen and lots of really bad things.  And this is probably the worst of the bad things.  And it’s an incredible thing.

An estimated 25 million people around the world today are being held captive, manipulated, and abused by human traffickers.

In 2018 alone, the National Human Trafficking Hotline identified over 23,000 human trafficking victims in the United States.  Sixty-five percent of these victims were women.  More than one in five were children.  Human traffickers prey on their most vulnerable citizens and people.   They’re vicious.  They’re violent.

My administration is fighting these monsters, persecuting and prosecuting them, and locking them away for a very, very long time.  We’ve had a tremendous track record — the best track record in a long time.

We are dismantling the criminal organizations that make largescale human trafficking possible.  In my first month in office, I instructed federal agencies to go out and just do what you have to do.  All federal departments are doing what they do to identify and destroy these groups.  And we are destroying a lot of them.  Unfortunately, they come back very quickly in a different form.

In 2018, the Department of Justice shut down the leading site for online sex trafficking.  The DOJ prosecuted a number of violent crimes.  That now is a record number.  In the last three years, ICE has arrested over 5,000 human traffickers.  And I want to thank ICE.  They have been incredible.  These are great, great people.  (Applause.)  Great.  Great people.  They’re tough, they’re brave, and they love our country.

Overseas, we have also seen historic prog- — really, progress, incredible progress working with us and using our intelligence with them.

When I took office, ISIS controlled over 20,000 square miles of territory and perpetrated some of the most heinous forms of human trafficking anywhere in the world.  As you know, we’ve totally defeated the ISIS caliphate in Syria, in Iraq.  And it’s 100 percent.

We have thousands and thousands of prisoners — ISIS prisoners.  And it’s really been something that’s been rather incredible.  And we did that rather quickly, because when we came in, as an administration, it was all over.  And we have 100 percent of the caliphate.  They’re bloodthirsty.  They’re horrible.

The founder and leader, al-Baghdadi, who was trying to rebuild ISIS, is now dead.  We got him and that was a big thing.  (Applause.)  That was a big thing, and not an easy thing.  He was hiding and they’ve been after him for 15 years, but we got him.

My administration is putting unprecedented pressure on traffickers at home and abroad, and we are freeing innocent victims at every single turn.

I was proud to be the first Commander-in-Chief to attend a meeting of the President’s Interagency Task Force established by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000.  In November, I was also the first President to sign an executive order to establish a Task Force on Missing and Murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives.  (Applause.)  Just signed it.  And this has a very special focus on women and girls.  That’s an incredible thing that’s been happening, but we just signed it.

I’ve signed nine pieces of bipartisan legislation aimed specifically at combatting human trafficking domestically and around the globe.

And in 2018, I signed legislation strengthening the Department of Homeland Security’s Blue Campaign, which unified the Department’s fight against this crisis and — increasing public awareness every single day.  We have signed more legislation on human trafficking, by far, than any other administration has even thought about.  We enacted bills.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  And we’ll do what’s necessary.  We will do exactly what’s necessary.  There’s nothing more horrible than this.

We enacted bills to fight sex trafficking, increase support for survivors, and raise the standards by which we judge whether other countries are meeting their duty to fight human trafficking.  And you have countries that talk and they talk.  They’re like politicians in Washington.  (Laughter.)  They keep talking; they do nothing about it.  They do nothing about it.

And we spend a lot of money on these other countries.  And we’re not sending it, and we let them know,ver if they’re not going to be doing their job.  They don’t — in some cases, probably — want to do their job, and that’s a pretty bad thing.

We have authorized $430 million to fight sex and labor trafficking.  And with the help of the State Department, I have held foreign governments accountable for failing to address human trafficking by imposing restrictions on foreign assistance — and very powerful restrictions.  (Applause.)

I’ve also prioritized increasing funding for anti-trafficking efforts in my 2021 budget, allocating $70 million towards enhanced prosecutions and — at the Department of Justice.  We are spending $123 million towards supporting state and local efforts. (Applause.)

And this is all new funding, and these funds will directly benefit those on the frontlines who are tasked with bringing down the perpetrators of this terrible crime.  So the kind of money we’re talking about now is far greater than what you’ve had in the past.

And let them give the people that worked so hard in this administration credit because they’ve wanted to do it more than the people in any other preceding administration.  And you can read what you want, you can say what you want, but nobody has done more than what we’ve been doing on human trafficking.  (Applause.)

So today, on the last day of this year’s National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, I will take another very decisive action.  In a few moments, I will sign an executive order targeting human trafficking and child exploitation all across our country.  This order — (applause).

And this is a very big one: This order will build on an incredible work that — and, really, the unbelievable work that so many of the people in this room have been doing, and all of the work that has been done and increasingly is being done.

You wouldn’t believe the level — the level of enthusiasm that people working on this issue have.  I wor- — I have many issues: economic — we have all different issues.  I have never seen such enthusiasm for a single issue as I have for human trafficking.  (Applause.)

And I have to say, that starts with Bill Barr and Chris Wray, the FBI.  It starts with all of the people in law enforcement.  So important.  And it’s something that people really do appreciate.

So they collect and they coordinate.  They share vital law enforcement and intelligence information with other places all over the world, and — very, very important.  And we have made a tremendous impact.  The problem is it’s so massive.  It’s so many people.  It’s so many countries.  But we’ve had a tremendous impact.

It will be posted online along with a comprehensive list of government resources, all of the things that we do, and where to go to find out about what’s happening.

This order expands prevention education programs, promotes housing opportunities for survivors, and prioritizes the removal of child sexual abuse material from the Internet. (Applause.)

And furthermore, it takes the vital step of designating a full-time position here at the White House dedicated solely to combating human trafficking, so people know how important it is.  (Applause.)

The United States government continues to work with the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, in consultation with industry, on a set, voluntary principle.  We have a — a set of voluntary principles to tackle online child sexual exploitation and abuse.  And the level of detail, the kind of things that they’re putting in — nobody has ever seen anything like this before.

The people that are working on it do it with incredible heart and love, and they want something to happen.  They don’t want to be wasting time like people have been wasting for many years.  Even people in this position, they’ve been wasting time and not a lot of money, I have to tell you.  They haven’t spent — as you know, they haven’t been spending a lot of money.  We’re now spending a lot of money.

We look forward to launching these principles in the coming months.  We will not rest until we’ve stopped every last human trafficker and liberated every last survivor.  (Applause.)

So I’m now pleased to introduce an incredible survivor, and the newest member of the U.S. Advisory Council on Human trafficking, Bella Hounakey.  Hi, Bella.  (Applause.)

MS. HOUNAKEY:  Good afternoon, my name is Bella Hounakey.  Thank you, President Trump, Ms. Ivanka Trump, and the White House for organizing this important event.  It is truly a great honor to be here to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.

At age 13, I was brought into this country.  I survived trafficking, along with 19 other girls.  Afterwards, I was placed in foster care, but this negative experience in my past should not wholly define who I am today.  (Applause.)  Today, I am a college graduate.  Today, I am an American citizen.  (Applause.)  And today, I stand before you as the newest member of the U.S. Advisory Council on Human Trafficking. (Applause.)

The Council is composed of survivor leaders who bring their experience and expertise to advise and provide recommendations to the President’s Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking Persons.

We represent a diverse range of backgrounds and experiences and we’re sincerely grateful to this administration for appointing our current (inaudible) members to support federal government efforts to prevent and improve trafficking programs and policies.

We view the existence of this council as a victory for trafficking survivors in the federal government.  This council is a model for survivor empowerment and survivor-centered approaches that other countries, states, and localities may learn from and adapt.

This council shows in real and tangible ways how survivors can positively impact and inform anti-trafficking efforts at the highest levels of government.

To truly be survivor-centered and informed means to not only prioritize survivors’ needs or wishes and service delivery, it must also include meaningful collaboration with survivors to inform the design and implementation of the very policies and programs that affect them.  No survivors should ever be viewed by their trafficking or lived experiences alone.

We acknowledge the great strides the federal government has made in the last 20 years to combat trafficking, as well as that of other stakeholders.  We look forward to continuing to advise and collaborate with the task force to realize the goals of the TVPA, and we encourage all of you to view our 2020 annual report, which will be released this April.

Thank you very much for the opportunity to be here today.  And to end, I would like to share a statement and a quote from our council’s chair, the Honorable Judge Lung, Robert:

This is to the victims and survivors out there: It’s never been your fault, no matter what.  So let go of that toxic shame; it doesn’t belong to you.  You are never too old, too lost, or too broken to begin healing today. 

Hope is key, and even if it starts out as small as a mustard seed, nurture hope — it’ll save you. 

And most importantly, you are not alone.  You’re not alone.  You’re not alone. 

Thank you and God bless America.  (Applause.)

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Incredible.  (Applause.)  Mr. President, Attorney General Barr, members of the council, Ivanka, Cabinet Secretaries, members of our diplomatic corps, including Ambassador Gingrich, distinguished members of Congress who’ve worked on this issue for so many years with such heart and compassion, members of the law enforcement community and faith leaders, and most especially, Bella and the courageous survivors who joined us here today: It is an honor to be with you on this historic day.  (Applause.)

As the President reflected, we’re here to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.

As the President has made clear, from his heart, we have a President who knows human trafficking is not only an unconscionable evil, but an epidemic in the world today.  And the United States of America will confront it as never before.  (Applause.)

Mr. President, as you said in your proclamation marking this past month, that human trafficking “is an affront to humanity.”  And you’ve taken decisive action to bring human traffickers to justice, their victims to safety, and to help survivors walk the difficult road to recovery.

Like no President before you, you’ve made it a priority to target transnational criminal organizations that have victimized thousands of innocent people on both sides of our borders.

I know the President and I are grateful for the efforts of all of those gathered here today for your compassion, for shining light in the darkness, and bringing the justice and determination of the American people to this cause.

But permit me to add one more voice of appreciation to a member of this administration who has probably articulated the President’s message on this issue with more compassion and more determination than anyone else in the history of this moment.  Would you join me in thanking Ivanka Trump one more time for her extraordinary leadership on human trafficking?  (Applause.)

Mr. President, the order you’re about to sign will impact the federal response across our government and empower the agencies so well represented here to have even more tools to combat the scourge of human trafficking.  It will improve the way law enforcement and federal agencies gather information.  It will also make it easier for the American people to partner with this administration and with law enforcement in combatting human trafficking.

It will empower faith-based organizations to provide victims and survivors with more compassionate care.

And with more and more young people around America engaged in this issue, Mr. President, by your order today, you will give younger Americans, especially, the ability on the Internet to identify the signs of trafficking, what dangers to avoid, and how to break free if they’ve been victimized.  (Applause.)

Our founding documents attest that we believe that every person is endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  And today, with a compassionate determination of all of those gathered here, Mr. President, you again show the American people’s commitment to the justice and dignity and worth of every person, and we thank you for your leadership and compassion.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  So, Mike, thank you very much.  And I just want to congratulate everybody in this room.

What I’d like to do is maybe ask some of our folks that are so involved to come up and the survivors to come up.  We will sign and we will say hello to everybody.

And again, it’s an honor to be with you today.  Thank you very much.  This is a big moment.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

(The executive order is signed.)  (Applause.)


12:45 P.M. EST